About 2 a.m. last Thursday, the recording on my son Eddie’s “Winnie the Pooh” tabletop game began to play. First the music: Buh duh dah, duh duh dah, duh. Then Pooh’s syncopated voice: “Can. You. Help. Me. Find. My. Friend. Eye. Ore.” I don’t know why the toy went on. You either have to press one of its buttons or knock into it as you walk by for it to begin playing. In my semi-consciousness, I decided the cat must have crawled across it. It was either that or an intruder, and I preferred to think it was the former.
The next two days were filled with activities, and I didn’t give the Pooh incident a second thought. I stubbed my toe on our kitchen table leg and may have broken it. I frantically made phone calls to report a story on which I’m behind. And Eddie and I went out to lunch with our friend, Doris. We then went to an antique store made up of booths from different dealers, and Eddie ran around lifting small items from one booth and then depositing them in the next when he would find another item more interesting.
Saturday night, after my husband, Bruce, put Eddie to bed, we retired to the living room to watch television. As often happens, I fell asleep on the couch at about 10.30 p.m. and Bruce went upstairs to bed. Around midnight, I was awakened by our cat, who was swatting at something in the next room. I didn’t know what it was, but it’s usually something I care about deeply, so I yelled out her name, “Fish!” and then tried to go back to sleep. But it was fruitless. Once I’m up, I’m up, and so I went upstairs and tiptoed into my office, which is just off of our bedroom where Bruce was asleep, and I turned on the computer.
I checked my email and went on to Facebook, reading posts and clicking on links to stories I would never find interesting during the day. After about an hour, I decided to go to bed. I turned off the light in the office and crept into bed, feeling my way around the metal bars of our iron footboard in the dark. As I lay down on my pillow, I could see the light of the computer monitor emanating from the office, and I considered shutting the office door, but I figured the screen light would shut off soon enough, and I didn’t want to have to get up and negotiate the metal footboard with a broken toe again in the dark.
About two hours later, something woke me – perhaps Bruce’s snoring — and as I opened my eyes, I had to squint because the overhead light in our bedroom was on. It seemed especially bright, like car headlights. I woke up Bruce.
“Did you turn on our bedroom light?” I asked.
“Our bedroom light. That one,” I said, pointing to it. “Did you turn it on?”
“I don’t know how it got on.”
“I don’t know,” he said and rolled over.
When I woke up again the next night and found the light on, I wasn’t even surprised.
“It’s on again,” I said to Bruce.
“So it is,” he said and turned over to go back to sleep.
I view the existence of ghosts much the way I view the existence of God: with a lot of skepticism but a healthy respect that borders on fear. Basically, I don’t believe they’re out there until I’m given reason to believe they are – and then I want to run like hell. Bruce’s sisters say they have heard ghosts in the guest room of his parents’ house. It’s an eighteenth century stone house, and every time we spend the night there, I lay in bed with my eyes wide open for about forty-five minutes, listening to the floor boards creak and the radiators pang before I relax enough to fall asleep.
I’m not someone who sees ghosts. My mother is our family’s self-appointed medium. She says moments after my grandfather died, he came to her in her sleep to say goodbye. And she tells the story of how my brother, Steven’s image came into her room one night when he was very young to say he had to go the bathroom. She called it his “astral projection.” A few minutes later, my brother actually did walk into her room to say he had to go.
I may have seen a ghost once, the ghost of my father, about five months after he died. It was 10 years ago, and I was in my parents’ house in Florida, sleeping in the guest room, which is across the hall from my parents’ bedroom where my father died. I was lying in bed not yet asleep, my eyes open, and suddenly a circle of little lights began to dance on the ceiling above me. I assumed it was headlights coming from the street below, though I didn’t hear a car, and I was on the second floor of the house. I watched the lights as they moved up and down, as if someone were holding a dozen little flashlights and shaking them back and forth. I was captivated. After about five minutes, they stopped, and that was that.
At the time, I thought the light display might have been my father, showing me he was there. But it was in a period when I thought lots of things were my father, like a plastic bag that the wind carried next to me one morning as I ran down the boardwalk. The bag followed me for about half a mile before the boardwalk turned right and the bag went straight, getting caught on a metal fence rail. I jogged in place for about 30 seconds hoping the bag would extricate itself, but it didn’t.
When I woke up this morning, I thought about our bedroom light and wondered whether it was caused by an electronic malfunction. We use a remote to turn the light on and off, and I wondered whether we were now on someone else’s frequency. We once installed a battery-operated doorbell that used frequencies like those that open a garage door, and every time our neighbor’s doorbell rang, so did ours.
In fact there are probably logical explanations for all the recent happenings in my house. But I prefer to think it’s my father wanting to visit me and my son, Eddie, who bears my father’s name. After all, today is my father’s birthday. It’s not surprising he’d want to spend it with family.